Election 2014: Islands Trust candidates oppose Gabriola bridge

NANAIMO – While the province will examine the potential of a fixed link to Gabriola, Islands Trust candidates are against a bridge.

While the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will be examining the potential of a fixed link to Gabriola Island, area Islands Trust candidates are against a bridge.

The ministry announced a feasibility study in September, after receiving a petition from the Gabriola Island Bridge Society with close to 700 signees, but prospective trustees aren’t in favour.

Candidate Heather Nicholas is concerned that an infrastructure project of that size would not serve the interests of a population the size of Gabriola Island. Land use planning and regulation are among the items under the trust’s jurisdiction.

“The plans have been available for many years on the provincial government’s website and I think it’s a very real concern that were a bridge to be built to ostensibly serve Gabriola, that in fact, it would be part of a much larger agenda, whereby a ferry terminal would be created at the south end or at the Whalebone area of Gabriola, which would then allow for a shorter run for the big ferry and would essentially turn Gabriola and Mudge into a highway for all of the traffic between mid Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

“So I think that the bridge question as it stands now is a bit of a Pandora’s Box, in that I am very concerned that, were bridge proponents to get what they were seeking, that it would be a lot more than they had bargained for,” said Nicholas.

Candidate Peter Phillips is also anti-bridge, stating it would change the cultural identity of Gabriola and irreparably devastate the culture of Mudge Island.

“Like all infrastructure, there is some value but overall, the damage that the bridge would do to island life, the cost is too high, the price is too high, and I don’t mean in monetary returns,” Phillips said. “I mean in terms of ecology.”

Candidate Chris Bowers said she worries about the environmental impact of a bridge. Additionally, there are a number of policy documents stating there should be no bridge.

“Three Islands Trust [official community plans], one that’s a trust policy statement, another one that’s the official community plan for Gabriola and official community plan for Mudge, speak against having bridges and I believe that a bridge will do damage to the culture, environment and economy of the island,” she said.

Candidate Melanie Mamoser had not responded by press time. Gulf Islands residents vote for Islands Trust represenatives on Saturday (Nov. 15).